Chinese chipmakers are about to debut a game changer for AI. Through a revolutionary new design schematic, devices of all shapes and sizes will be able process AI information quickly and inexpensively. These new chips can be embedded in the smallest of devices, such as smartphones and even watches. They can dynamically alter their computing and memory requirements to meet the needs of the AI software being run on the chip. Additionally, they require less power. Combine these advancements with the recent announcement of China’s ambitious 5G initiative with Qualcomm, Xiaomi and Lenovo, and you have a potential AI powerhouse on the not so distant horizon.
In an office at Tsinghua University in Beijing, a computer chip is crunching data from a nearby camera, looking for faces stored in a database. Seconds later, the same chip, called Thinker, is handling voice commands in Chinese. Thinker is designed to support neural networks. But what’s special is how little energy it uses—just eight AA batteries are enough to power it for a year.